Friday, February 18, 2011

A heck of a week!

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined."
This quote from Thoreau can be found on many a journal or magnet in Borders or the like. My mother gave me a magnet with this quote on it when I was younger and I feel that right now, in my late twenties, I am starting to get it. I am slowly starting to realize that humans, every human, has it within themselves the power to change things in their lives...for the better or for the worse.
Pura vida.

Monday was Valentine's day and since my Valentine is currently living in a beautiful, snowy town right now, I went out to celebrate with Caroline. No fancy candlelit dinner for us...just burgers and beer. Trying to remember where one can get a good burger in Santa Barbara we realized that we had not tried Union Ale's burger and with their plethora of beers on tap, we did not hesitate another second. Greasy and tasty, this was a fine burger. Side of sweet potato fries and all was well. The meat was perfectly cooked medium rare and tasted fresh and tender. To accompany said burger - Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Awesome. A few games of pool and filling up the jukebox with sappy/angry/funny love songs at another local pub, Dargans, our night was complete.
Tuesday was Caroline's birthday. So as to start of her 30th year of life on the right foot she jumped out of a plane...and so did I! A few months ago I swore to her that I would never, under any circumstance sky dive. Ha! So much for that one. I considered the safety risks and realized that all in all there was not too much to worry about. So around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, at 13,000 feet, I watched Caroline "fall" out of the plane and I followed. We did this tandem, obviously, so all we had to do was go along for the ride. And what a ride! One minute of free fall and whoosh, the parachutes jerked us up and we were flying! During the free-fall I watched the earth drawing nearer and nearer and wondered how to breath with this pressure on my chest from falling up to 120 mph. Truly an amazing experience which I will do again! Thanks Sean at SkyDive Santa Barbara!
 Happy Birthday Caroline!
 There she went!
 Not the most flattering photo... : )
 Whirling around.
Whew! Crazy!

On Wednesday we ventured out to Wine Country through one of the many tour companies found in Santa Barbara, Coastal Concierge. With Kevin as our guide/driver, we visited three wineries and ate lunch at the Los Olivos Cafe. I enjoyed a smoked sturgeon salad which was lovely, but there was too much bread and not enough salad. We drank a 2010 Palmina Pinot Grigio.

Our first winery had been Foley, which is just too much for my palate. Too much fruit, too much alcohol. Even their Steel Chardonnay manages to be too much. Lovely location though. Dierberg/Star Lane's tasting room is gorgeous and located all by itself between hills and vines. Beckmen also is in a great location and though the tasting room isn't all that fabulous, the grounds are.
Thursday I joined two lovely friends for a quick hike to Inspiration Point. It was stunning. The clouds and the breeze created movement and an intense light over the city. I have done this hike tons of times, but it just never gets old.
And last night I went over to my friend's house to cook up a lovely mini feast. We sauteed pink and yellow potatoes and some parsnips with olive oil, butter, and herbs. We pan seared a pork loin and deglazed the pot with port and finished in the oven. As the pork rested we glazed it with some red currant preserve which added a lovely sweetness and tartness and I made a sauce from the yummy fonds in the pot and more Port reduced. A few buttered peas on the side as well and voila. It was delectable.
As I write rain is pouring down and the wind is moving my large sliding glass doors. Looks like I'll be staying in and reflecting on one heck of a week!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Every Timers

Though this last trip to Paris was mostly devoted to discovering new places to eat in Paris I never miss a chance to eat at Je Thé As you walk into the charming, oddly shaped room, walls covered in dark wooden shelves covered with teapots and other trinkets, you are greeted with the smiling faces of Damien (Responsable de cave and manager) and his father Jacky (Chef and owner). Do not be fooled by Jacky's playful demeanor and singing while in service, he's one fantastic, serious chef! Je is one of those places where you will find all types - an older couple out for a treat, young friends laughing, family's reuniting, or a young woman dining alone...well, this probably does not happen often unless said person just HAS to eat there when in Paris at any cost! I did that in April...
Anyways, let's get on with the interesting visuals!

After a coupe de Champagne (100% Pinot Meunier = lovely crispness), the meal began.
First course - Poached egg over a brioche toast on a bed of creamy mushrooms. Earthy decadence on a plate. Caroline didn't stop talking about it the rest of the trip! Yum. Look at that yolk!
 The wine - Crozes-Hermitage seen below. Alive and bold, 100% Syrah. A perfect match for our meal.
Second course - I enjoyed salt crusted duck and Caroline, a lovely piece de boeuf. The duck, as you can see, was cooked to perfection and the saltiness of that fatty crust was heavenly.

Sweetness - Though I am not one for desserts, I always enjoy one here. This dessert was quite an intricate chocolate lovers dream. A chocolate ganache like cake sitting in pistachio sauce with a bit of Thyme sorbet (yes, thyme) on top. WOW. Thyme sorbet plus dark chocolate equals one of the best dessert combos ever thought of. Caroline happily enjoyed her very first Baba au Rhum.

Je Thé, je t'aime. Miam!

Note: During this visit I discovered that this lovely establishment is a fellow Blogspot blogger and while on their blog I discovered the most exciting news - Anthony Bourdain went to Je Thé with Eric Ripert for his No Reservations TV show!!!!! Let's just say that I am in awe and a huge admirer of Anthony Bourdain's writing and view on food. Wow. Here's the blog where you can check out a clip...

Another place I enjoy revisiting is a busy crepe place called Creperie Josselin near the Tour Montparnasse. I'll let the photo speak for itself...but you should know you are staring at two crepes filled with ham, cheese, mushrooms, and an egg...

And to finish off this entry I leave you with images of Les Byzantins goodies we bought To-Go and enjoyed in the comforts of home. This little Greek deli is another place I inevitably eat at not only because it is convenient, but it is all fresh and delicious. Hummus, moussaka, stuffed peppers, 5 euro wine, and other delights. Merci George!